Air purifier recall plan botched, says ministry

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Air purifier recall plan botched, says ministry

The Ministry of Environment admitted it botched an extensive recall plan for filters for air purifiers and air-conditioners that it said could be toxic.

One major filter didn’t contain the toxic chemical substance, Octylisothiazolinone (OIT), that the ministry said it did.

The blunder is a major embarrassment and only deepens the public’s distrust after the Oxy humidifier sterilizer scandal, which killed at least 73 Koreans and sickened more than 100. Customers used humidifier sterilizers to improve their health and that of their families, but they were toxic.

On Wednesday, the government said it would recall air purification products and air-conditioning systems after OIT was discovered in the filters.

The Ministry of Environment released a list of filters that contained the toxic chemical and said almost all were manufactured by 3M. The filters were used in air purifiers made by popular brands including Cuckoo, LG, Samsung and Coway.
The ministry announced Friday that several products would be taken off the list because OIT wasn’t discovered in their filters. Eighteen products that are made domestically but exported were also struck from the recall list because they fall outside the authority’s jurisdiction.
In total, 51 air purifier models are on the final list for a recall.

With air-conditioning systems for home use, the environment ministry said it would recall 33 different models.

The filters used in all 84 products were manufactured by 3M.

Of the 51 air purifier models, nearly half were Cuckoo-brand. Others were made by LG, Samsung, Winia, Prexco and Chungho Nise. Among the 33 air-conditioners, LG Electronics had 25 models listed, while Samsung Electronics had eight.

As to why the Environment Ministry failed to get their facts straight from the beginning, an official said the government had received a faulty list from 3M and distributed it to local media without separately checking with the companies who made the machines.

After the news broke, several companies reportedly called the ministry and pointed out errors.

Even as the ministry vowed to clamp down on faulty and possible fatal products, many consumers say they’re far from feeling at ease.
“Until the whole brouhaha settles down,” said Lee Hyung-gyu, 39, who has two daughters enrolled in elementary school, “I’m not turning on my air conditioner. I’ll use natural air-fresheners and rely on fans instead.”

Kim Eun-jee, 45, a mom whose daughter is in middle school, said she had an Oxy humidifier sterilizer in her house before the scandal, but threw it away after reading about its causing of lung diseases.

“I’m not all that comfortable using air-conditioners anymore after that experience, so I use electric fans instead,” said Kim.
Another mom surnamed Kim, 33, who has a 7-month-old baby, said she was planning to purchase an air purifier until several days ago, but decided to abandon the idea after learning about the toxic chemical substance.


BY SUNG SI-YOON, YOON JAE-YOUNG [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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